Recovery after an ERCP

ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangio pancreatogram)

An ERCP is used to diagnose and treat problems with your bile duct and pancreas.

After the ERCP, you might have some tummy (abdominal) pain, bloating, or discomfort when swallowing for a few days after the ERCP.

If you have had sedation or a general anaesthetic and are leaving hospital within 24 hours, you must have someone to take you home and stay with you overnight. This person should be at least 18 years old.

Recovering after an ERCP

The nurse will take you to a recovery area. They will check your observations (pulse and blood pressure) regularly, and monitor you for any complications.

  • You will need to stay in the endoscopy unit for 4 to 6 hours, so you can be monitored for any complications.
  • If you are being transferred to your own hospital by ambulance, you will need to stay in the endoscopy unit until you are fully awake, which usually takes at least 1 hour.

Usual medicines

You should keep taking your usual medicines, unless you are told not to. If you have been asked to stop any medicines before the procedure, your doctor or nurse will tell you when you can start taking these again.

Eating and drinking

Most of the time, you can eat as usual once you are fully awake. However, depending on the type of treatment you had during the ERCP, you might be asked to not eat anything for 12 hours or more.

Your doctor or nurse will give you more information on how long to wait before eating and drinking after your ERCP. 

They will also tell you if you need a soft diet, and when you can start eating solid foods again.

After you leave hospital

If you have had sedation or a general anaesthetic and are going home within 24 hours, you must have someone to take you home and stay with you overnight. This person should be at least 18 years old.

You should rest at home. The sedation lasts longer than you might think. In the first 24 hours you should not:

  • drive a car, or ride a bicycle
  • operate machinery, or do anything needing skill or judgement
  • drink alcohol
  • take sleeping tablets
  • go to work
  • make any important decisions, sign contracts or legal documents

Contact your GP or go to the nearest A&E if:

  • you have severe tummy (abdominal) pain
  • your pain is getting worse
  • you have a high temperature (fever)
  • your poo is black
  • you have yellow skin or eyes (jaundice)
  • you cannot stop being sick (vomiting)

Take your endoscopy report with you.

It is important that you tell your GP or the emergency department doctor that you have had an ERCP. The team will contact the gastroenterology team for specialist advice.

Side effects after an ERCP

You might have discomfort when swallowing for at least 48 hours after an ERCP. This can last for several weeks, but it will get better.

If you have any bloating or tummy discomfort, this might be from the air that was put into your stomach during the procedure. This is normal and should settle within 24 hours.

We will give you pain medicine into your bottom (a suppository) before the end of the procedure. This will reduce the risk of pancreatitis. 

You can take simple painkillers, such as paracetamol after an ERCP. You can buy these from a pharmacy or shop. Always follow the instructions and recommended amount (dose) on the leaflet that comes with this medicine.

If your discomfort does not settle, try to pass wind. You can do this by moving about changing position. You can also try warm drinks, or having peppermint. Try peppermint tea or peppermint water (you can buy this at a pharmacy).

Results of your ERCP

Your doctor or nurse will talk you through the procedure and any next steps before you leave hospital. However, you might be sleepy and not able to remember the details.

The results will be sent to your referring doctor (your GP or hospital doctor) and you will be given an endoscopy report when you leave hospital.

Many GPs do not have this report on their system for about 10 days to 2 weeks after your procedure.

Do not contact the endoscopy unit for your biopsy results, as they cannot give them to you.

If you have not received your results within 4 weeks please contact the numbers below depending on which clinic is on your report.

 

  • Surgical virtual clinic (SVC), phone 020 7188 7188 extension 53075
  • Gastroenterology virtual clinic (GVC), phone 020 7188 7188 extension 8779

Follow-up appointment

If your results suggest that you need a follow-up appointment, the patient access team at the hospital will contact you to arrange this. Details of the follow-up appointment will be sent to you in the post.

If it is urgent, you will be given an appointment on the day of your ERCP.

You might be told that your follow up is a virtual clinic. This is when the clinical team review your results without you being there. They will make a decision on next steps based on the results. You and your GP will then get a letter telling you if you need to go to an outpatient clinic at the hospital, or if you can be discharged back to your GP.

Resource number: 2559/VER5
Last reviewed: December 2021
Next review: December 2024

Contact us

If you have any questions or concern after the ERCP and you are in hospital, please speak to your nurse.

If you are at home, you can contact the endoscopy unit, phone 020 7188 8887 Monday to Saturday 9am to 5pm.

You can also contact:

In an emergency

Out of hours (evenings and weekends), phone 020 7188 7188 and ask to be put through to the on-call gastroenterology registrar (via Rota watch).

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Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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